Vernon's final bill in legal battle over fired firefighter tops $250K | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon's final bill in legal battle over fired firefighter tops $250K

Fired in March 2018, Vernon Fire Service captain Brent Bond has won an appeal to get his job back.
Image Credit: Image Credit: BCFFA
March 13, 2021 - 8:30 AM

The final tally of costs the City of Vernon has spent on multiple failed legal challenges in its ongoing efforts to get rid of a firefighter for a "brief episode of consensual sexual activity" with a colleague in his boss's office has topped more than a quarter of a million dollars.

The City of Vernon confirmed it spent $256,993 on legal fees regarding the matter that dates back to March 2018 when a hidden surveillance camera – which was monitoring the fire chief's office for different reasons – caught a female dispatcher performing oral sex on fire Capt. Brent Bond.

Bond and the dispatcher were fired two days later, but the union fought the dismissals and Bond got his $130,000 a year job back a year later.

The City lost two appeals with the Labour Relations Board to have the rehiring overturned – and by that point had spent $240,000 on lawyers.

The City then took the case to the B.C. Supreme Court. While the case took a year to go through the courts the cost came in at a modest $16,000, as most of the pricey groundwork had already been done.

On Feb. 22, it lost again.

City of Vernon chief administrative officer Will Pearce confirmed with that the City would not be taking the matter to the B.C. Court of Appeal, signalling an end to the long-running court saga.

"The outcome is most disappointing," Pearce said in an email.

Unlike the majority of money City Hall spends, the decision to continue with the litigation was not voted on by council and was made by city staff. Speaking to one councillor it was evident they didn’t want to pursue the matter.

The final bill was, coincidentally, just under what city staff estimated an outdoor skating rink would cost in 2019.

At the time, due to the $275,000 price tag, council decided not to move forward with the idea, although in January council revamped the plan and is currently exploring it for next winter.

While the cost of the litigation is staggering at $256,993 the figure isn’t the total amount that’s been spent on issues surrounding the Vernon fire department.

In 2015 an independent report was conducted and identified multiple problems within the fire department. Following the report, a retired police chief was brought in to investigate allegations of bullying, intimidation and harassment.

These reports, which have not been made publicly available, cost $92,000, taking the total up to $348,993.

READ MORE: Sexual activity at Vernon fire hall exposed 'toxic' workplace

Beyond the sex scandal headlines, the court documents released throughout the litigation exposed a fire department full of distrust, with long ongoing conflicts between the Union and management.

The surveillance camera put up in Vernon Fire Chief David Lind’s office in the fall of 2017 was done so because the chief suspected that someone was going through his desk.

Court documents highlighted issues of locked filing cabinets found unlocked, as well as union staff knowing confidential information which was supposed to be strictly reserved for management.

When the surveillance camera caught Bond and the female dispatcher in March of 2018, the 88-second incident got them both fired.

While Bond got his $130,000 a year job back — albeit with a five-month suspension — the dispatcher's job had since been contracted out so there was no job for her to return to.

When Bond got his job back in March 2019, Pearce expressed his displeasure.

"It is not now and will never be acceptable or ethical for a direct supervisor to engage in a sexual relationship with junior and subordinate staff," he said in a statement.

And Pearce wasn’t the only one.

The arbitrator John McKearney, who voted against reinstating Bond in the original Labour Relations Board dispute, said Bond had created a "poison" work environment.

"His actions were a gross violation of his duty to create a welcoming work environment for all, and especially for women," McKearney said.

On Mar. 12, Pearce confirmed Bond is working at the Vernon fire department.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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